Systematic theology, as the name implies, is simply a systematised presentation of biblical theology. Theological themes and concepts are scattered throughout the Bible, so the systematic theologian simply seeks to take all this and present it in a more orderly and coherent fashion.
The Bible throughout for example has a lot to say about God, or Christ, or sin, or salvation. A systematic theology will seek to make orderly bundles or groupings of each of these subjects, so that an overall picture of the topic can be more easily accessed, assessed and addressed.
Thus these are very valuable theological tools and all Christians should have one or two of them. Now I happen to have dozens of them, and sometimes I am asked for my favourites. So let me here provide a listing of some of the better systematic theologies.
Of course they more or less reflect my own theological orientation, so they are almost all Protestant, and will generally reflect evangelical, Reformed or conservative points of view – not altogether, but for the most part. Some are older, while some are quite recent.
Most of them are of some value, and some are outstanding. But how one makes such a judgment of course will depend on various factors. If you are not conservative, evangelical, and so on, then you may not like most of these. If you are more Arminian in your theology, then obviously those systematics from a more Reformed background will not be your cup of tea.
Let me then offer some general remarks first. Many of the older systematic theologies are still of great value, and are well worth having. One thinks for example of Bavinck, Berkhof, Hodge, and Shedd, for example. Most are over a hundred years old, and all happen to reflect the Reformed point of view. At least one of these would be well worth owning.
As to more recent systematics, I still quite like those by Erickson and Grudem. Both have been updated and revised over the years, but both are still terrific volumes and well worth having in your library. Geisler, who is known as much for his work in apologetics and philosophy as theology, has produced a helpful recent 4-volume series.
I quite like Bloesch, Frame and Oden as well, coming as they do from various different theological perspectives. And if you want a dispensational approach, then of course you will go with Chafer. If you are looking for an Arminian/Methodist slant, then go with Miley. If you want a Pentecostal or Charismatic ST, go with Williams.
Let me also draw your attention to the various multi-volume series. The slightly older Contours of Christian Theology series is very good indeed. The newest and most detailed and thorough is the Foundations of Evangelical Theology series. With five volumes out so far, it is a first rate set. The single volume alone by Feinberg on the doctrine of God (No One Like Him, 2001) is excellent, and well worth wading through its 900 pages.
What I offer here is broken down into five parts, beginning with some general introductory works on theology and its importance.
Bloesch, Donald, A Theology of Word & Spirit: Authority and Method in Theology. IVP, 1992.
Clark, David, To Know and Love God: Method for Theology. Crossway Books, 2003.
Davis, John Jefferson, Theology Primer. Baker, 1981.
Erickson, Millard and James Heflin, Old Wine in New Wineskins: Doctrinal Preaching in a Changing World. Baker, 1997.
Green, Joel and Max Turner, eds., Between Two Horizons: Spanning New Testament Studies and Systematic Theology. Eerdmans, 2000.
Grenz, Stanley, Renewing the Center. Baker, 2000.
Grenz, Stanley and Roger Olson, Who Needs Theology? InterVarsity Press, 1996.
Hart, Trevor, Faith Thinking: The Dynamics of Christian Theology. InterVarsity Press, 1996.
McGrath, Alister, Christian Theology: An Introduction, 3rd ed. Blackwell Publishers, 2001.
McGrath, Alister, Theology: The Basics. Blackwell Publishers, 2004.
McGrath, Alister, Understanding Doctrine. Hodder and Stoughton, 1990.
Vanhoozer, Kevin, First Theology: God, Scripture and Hermeneutics. InterVarsity Press, 2002.
Akin, Daniel, ed., A Theology for the Church. B&H, 2007.
Bavinck, Herman, Reformed Dogmatics, 4 vols. Baker, 2003-2008 (1895-1899).
Berkhof, Louis, Systematic Theology. Eerdmans, 1939.
Berkouwer, G.C., Studies in Dogmatics. 14 vols. Eerdmans, 1952-1976.
Bloesch, Donald, Christian Foundations. 7 vols. InterVarsity Press, 1992-2004.
Bray, Gerald, God Is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology. Crossway, 2012.
Buswell, James, A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion. Zondervan, 1963.
Chafer, Lewis Sperry, Systematic Theology. 8 vols. Dallas Seminary Press, 1947-1948.
Culver, Robert Duncan, Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical. Christian Focus, 2005.
Erickson, Millard, Systematic Theology. Baker, 1992.
Frame, John, A Theology of Lordship. 4 vols. Bethany House, 1987-2010.
Garrett, James, Systematic Theology: Biblical, Historical and Evangelical. Smithfield Press, 2001.
Geisler, Norman, Systematic Theology. 4 vols. Bethany House, 2002-2005.
Grudem, Wayne, Systematic Theology. Zondervan, 1994.
Hodge, Charles, Systematic Theology. 3 vols. Eerdmans, 1975 [1871-1873].
Horton, Michael, The Christian Faith. Zondervan, 2011.
Horton, Stanley, ed., Systematic Theology: A Pentecostal Perspective. Logion Press, 1994.
Jenson, Robert, Systematic Theology. 2 vols. Oxford University Press, 1997-1999.
Kelly, Douglas, Systematic Theology. 3 vols. Mentor, 2008-.
Lewis, Gordon and Bruce Demarest, Integrative Theology. Zondervan, 1996 [1987-1984].
Migliore, Daniel, Faith Seeking Understanding, 2nd ed. Eerdmans, 2004 .
Miley, John, Systematic Theology, 2 vols. Hendrickson 1989 [1892-1894].
Oden, Thomas, Systematic Theology, 3 vols. HarperCollins, 1987-1994.
Reymond, Robert, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith. 2nd ed. Word, 1998.
Shedd, William G.T., Dogmatic Theology, 3 vols. Klock and Klock, 1979 .
Strong, A.H., Systematic Theology. Fleming R. Revell, 1974 .
Thiessen, Henry, Lectures in Systematic Theology. Eerdmans, 1974 .
Williams, J. Rodman, Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective. 3 vols. Zondervan, 1988-1992.
History of Theology
Berkhof, Louis, A History of Christian Doctrines. Baker, 1975 .
Bromiley, Geoffrey, Historical Theology: An Introduction. T&T Clark, 2000.
Brown, Harold O.J., Heresies. Doubleday, 1984.
Cunliffe-Jones, Hubert, ed., A History of Christian Doctrine. T&T Clark, 1978.
Cunningham, William, Historical Theology. Banner of Truth, 1996.
Gonzalez, Justo, A History of Christian Thought. 3 vols. Abingdon, 1970-1975.
Hall, Christopher, Learning Theology with the Church Fathers. InterVarsity Press, 2002.
Hart, Trevor, ed., The Dictionary of Historical Theology. Eerdmans, 2000.
Hill, Jonathan, The History of Christian Thought. Lion, 2003.
Kelly, J.N.D., Early Christian Creeds. Longmans, Green and Co., 1950.
Kelly, J.N.D., Early Christian Doctrines. A&C Black, 1958.
McGrath, Alister, Historical Theology. Blackwell, 1998.
Olson, Roger, The Mosaic of Christian Belief. InterVarsity Press, 2002.
Olson, Roger, The Story of Christian Theology. InterVarsity Press, 1999.
Orr, James, Progress of Dogma. Hodder and Stoughton, 1901.
Pelikan, Jaroslav, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine. 5 vols. University of Chicago Press, 1971-1989.
Placher, William, A History of Christian Theology: An Introduction. Westminster John Knox Press, 1983.
Multivolume Series in Theology
Bray, Gerald, ed., Contours of Christian Theology. 8 vols. IVP, 1993-2002.
Feinberg, John, ed., Foundations of Evangelical Theology. 5 vols. so far. Crossway Books, 1997-.
Green, Michael, ed., I Believe in… 11 vols. Eerdmans, 1974-1982.
Tidball, Derek, The Bible Speaks Today: Bible Themes. The Message of… 12 vols. so far. IVP, 2000-.
Dyrness, William and Veli-Matti Karkkainen, eds, Global Dictionary of Theology. InterVarsity Press, 2008.
Ott, Craig and Harold Netland, eds., Globalizing Theology: Belief and Practice in an Era of World Christianity. Baker Academic, 2006.
Schwarz, Hans, Theology in a Global Context. Eerdmans, 2005.
Tennent, Timothy, Theology in the Context of Global Christianity. Zondervan, 2007.
Happy reading, happy theologising, and happy studying.